Coming Clean…

So you might have noticed that I’ve been absent for a few weeks. I have to admit I fell off the wagon. HARD. I tossed my New Years resolutions out the window, and I’ve been secretly sneaking around Washington shopping to my hearts content and not telling you. When the going gets tough (or overly busy or bored), I shop my feelings. Not cool.

My real weakness has been buying expensive lipsticks. I bought this one for everyday, this one for weekends, and this one for kicks. I can’t stop! My collection has ballooned to an inordinate amount, and the worst part is that half the time, I forget to put it on! Whoops.

I’m hoping that admitting this is the first step to setting myself on a path to financial righteousness. Thankfully, most of my other resolutions are still intact, but it was touch and go for a while.

Anyway, I hope to launch back into full-form blogging and budgeting starting today. Stay tuned!

Can It Be? Another J. Crew Warehouse Sale Is In Our Midst!

Are my eyes deceiving me? Is this too good to be true? J. Crew is opening their warehouse for shoppers yet again. Mark your calendars for next weekend!

Clearly, I didn’t buy enough in January, so they had to host another sale. It’s the only plausible explanation. I will probably take a breather from this one, but I won’t stand in any of your ways! Here are the details.

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If you go, remember my tips from last time, and let me know what you get!

Home Waxing – A Cautionary Tale

Without my family’s annual winter beach vacation, I have been slacking off on – what I affectionately refer to as – routine maintenance. Part of it has been a time thing, part is a money thing (usually it’s about $50 a pop for a professional job), and part is just plain laziness.

But in the last few days, it’s started to get the better of me. My go-to salon for waxing is the Red Door Salon and Spa. They use a special kind of wax that doesn’t hurt as much (to me at least), so I’ve been a devotee for years. Plus, there is one near my office, so it’s super easy to pop out on my lunch break to take care of business.

But lately I have been really busy (and poor and lazy), so I haven’t been able to get over there. So, as I was perusing the aisles of Target this past weekend, I saw these wax strips and decided to give them a try (for a grand total of $6.99). I suppose I was feeling extra Discountess-like that day. A total savings of $43 – not bad, right?

Well now, with the full experience in the rear view mirror, I can safely say I was wrong. SO SO SO WRONG. This is not something you should do at home. AT ALL. It was awful. AWFUL! Here’s why:

1. It hurts. Of course, it hurts when a professional does it too, but something about the element of surprise when someone else does it makes it an easier pill to swallow.

2. It takes a while. What is normally a 15 minute blip in my lunch break took me 25 minutes to get it right (insert more pain here). Slow is definitely not the way to get this done.

3. Without a mirror and some serious acrobatics, you can’t entirely see what you’re doing. This is not a time for guesswork. Trust me. One misstep, and you guessed it, more pain.

4. Did I mention that you can seriously hurt yourself? Let’s just say, I managed to give myself some sort of bruise in the process. Enough. Said.

So for you Discountess readers who are looking to cut costs, my recommendation would be–cut elsewhere. This is an experience that even many professionals screw up, and I was no exception. I was too big for my britches. I failed, and I have a bruise to prove it.

Ooooh Ebay, You Are So Dangerous

I feel I need to come clean. I had a HUGE oops on Ebay this weekend. A friend turned me onto a sale happening featuring her favorite jewelry line, so I toodled on over to check it out. And that’s when I saw these.

I have recently been obsessed with Buddhas, so I just had to have them. My sincere thanks go to Discountess-enthusiast Heather for really making me think about whether I wanted them. She did a credible job trying to get me to think twice, but in reality the horse was out of the barn at that point. I was 2 hours away from the finish line and ensconced in a bidding war with someone who I was positive didn’t deserve them as much as I did. And so, I swooped in at the last moment with the final bid, and BAM, they were mine.

I was elated! But even better, I was able to stick within my budget for them (though it’s a big part of my monthly shopping budget..eeek!). Yes, they are unnecessary, but they are so, so awesome. Also, through somewhat careful planning, I was able to pay for them via PayPal (since this is no credit card month, that was a must).

So the good news is that my new years resolutions are still in tact, and my new earrings are on the way to me from London. Will let you know how awesome they are in person when they arrive!

Splurge vs. Save – Blowout Results

Weeellll, my bright idea was only marginally bright. All-in-all Bubbles did a great job. I sailed in a few minutes before my appointment and was seated on time with a nice, knowledgeable stylist. We decided on loose curls/waves for my doo. I actually have wavy hair, and having seen my stylist at DryBar blow dry beach waves into my hair, I figured it was easy to do.

However, my stylist took a different approach. She dried my hair first with a round brush, and then when I asked for more waves, she broke out the curling iron. What I didn’t realize was that a full treatment with the curling iron was $10 extra! So my nice cheap blow out became a $41 proposition. What do you think? Was it worth the extra dough?

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Add my more expensive blow out to my impromptu manicure that I got just before the appointment, and it turned out to be rather an expensive day. Not the best way to end my inaugural year as the Discountess. Eek!

I guess the silver lining of all this is that I’m smarter now about how to get an inexpensive blow out. I still think it’s a good idea, as long as you know the right questions to ask. If Bubbles isn’t close to you, here are some other area salons that do blowouts on the cheap:

Aveda Institute in Chinatown – For a level 2 (Level 2 means a more experienced student), the cost is $20. It wouldn’t have worked for my Monday New Year’s party because they’re only open from Thursday to Saturday, but for a regular weekend on the town it would work like a charm.

Paul Mitchell Salon School in Tysons – For all you Virginia readers, this is a good option in your hood. A phase two student blow out will only cost you $15!

The Hair Cuttery on Connecticut Avenue (just below R Street) – Here you will have an actual qualified professional do your hair for $18.

Got a good option not listed above? Let me know, and I’ll give them a shot!

Budget Check In – I Still Have a Shopping Problem

So I’m officially one month down in my budgeting process. I figure that now is a good time for a gut-check moment. First off, I should say that I did officially save this month. Woo hoo! Whether or not I saved in the right areas, is a different story. Here’s where my budget checks out as of 10/31/12.

I’m over in the following categories:

Auto/Transportation – 14% over
Cash/ATM – 10% over
Personal Care  – 14% over
Groceries – 25% over
Shopping – 89% over (Clearly this one needs work – EEK!)

I was even or I only used part of the budget (i.e. I saved) in the following categories:

Bills/Utilities (includes rent, gym, etc) – Even
Business/Office – 16% used
Entertainment – 48% used (I was pretty surprised at this one!)
Food/Drink – 83% used (Again, surprised.)
Dry Cleaning – 26% used (I think this one is an anomaly)
Gifts – 70% used

Given all of this spending/saving, I managed to save more than my target amount for the month. But, I ended up having to use half of it to buy a train ticket for my Thanksgiving trip, so my final savings this month is 62% of my target amount.  Therefore, I rule this month as a marginal success.

Clearly, I need to address the shopping issue, but I’m pretty proud of myself that I managed to curtail spending on eating out. That is another big downfall for me (I say this as I have dinner plans tonight at Napoleon with friends).

I’ll admit I’m starting to get nervous about November and December budgeting. They are going to be tough months, especially with the holidays. I have at least three parties that I plan to throw in the next few months, and I need to buy Christmas presents – eek! My plan is to combine the shopping and gift budgets during the next two months to buy presents, and who knows what I’m going to do about the parties.

I’m contemplating buying lottery tickets in the hopes that I have a financial windfall. Fingers crossed!

Budget Fail – Part Deux

So my week of budget failure continues. I went to TJ Maxx today to purchase my Halloween costume, and managed to spend $67.80. Of COURSE, I picked up 2 unnecessary items including an adorable pair of sunglasses that were $7.99 (Naturalizer – who knew?!) and some lavender linen spray. Still, I shouldn’t have spent that much and to make matters worse – they double charged me for one of the items. Ugh! I didn’t notice until I got home, and there is very little hope that they will believe me when I try to reverse the charge. Grrr.

The good news is that I didn’t buy this.

In my former life, this Tory Burch coat would have been marched to the cash register as soon as I saw it. But now that I am the Discountess, I know better.

NOTE: This is still a pretty good deal for any interested Washingtonians out there, and it’s $449. Now, I realize that you can buy 6 coats for that price at LL Bean, but this is a good price for Tory.

Last one to get to the  TJ Maxx at Metro Center, is a rotten egg! Oh and there are other good Tory deals there too – definitely worth checking out!

Not-so budget vacation

Just returned from a fabulous long weekend visiting a good friend and her fiance in L.A. I was worried about maintaining my Discountess-ness while there, and it turns out I was right to stress. Here’s my current state of affairs:

1. Shopping budget – blown. Even with the money I saved from not heating or ACing my house this month, it’s all gone.

2. Food and Drink Budget – teetering on the brink. I have about $60 left, which anyone in DC will tell you is about 3 glasses of wine until the end of the month. Sad.

3. Transportation budget – blown. That included a $40 parking stint at Dulles airport, which was the cheapest option I might add!

The good news is that I had an awesome time. My friends and I cruised Manhattan Beach and saw all the surfers. I scored this awesome pair of earrings at a local boutique called BLVD. See below.

 

 

 

We also went to this adorable bookstore (like, the old-fashioned kind that has real books and is not hosted online). And, my life will be forever changed by the discount fish tacos at this place!

I’m deeming this a cultural/vacation success, but a budgetary failure. I have 6 more days in the month, but they include a visiting friend this weekend, a Halloween party (costume needed!), and two outings for drinks with friends. We’ll see if my bank account makes it.

 

Vegas Bound!

I’m in luck this week. I’m headed to Las Vegas for a work event through Friday. This trip is especially timely since, in an effort to stretch out my sad $200 budget, I haven’t been able to go to the grocery store for two weeks. Pros of my Vegas trip include the following:

1. Staying here.

2. Free Food (and wine for three days).

3. The weather.

Cons include being in close proximity to this, this, and this – not to mention the roulette table. We’ll see how I do…

Emails like this will be the death of my budget…

Seriously, I can’t take it. The evil marketing gods know how to push every one of my buttons. What – a sale? With lots of shoes? That may not be available at this bargain basement rate EVER again? I. MUST. SHOP.

Keep in mind that I have more than 70 pairs of shoes (my mother totally judged me when she heard that), and there is very little likelihood that I could get something at this sale that I absolutely needed. That is my brain talking, of course, but my credit card and my heart are singing a different tune. I managed to resist the sale so far, but I know I will eventually succumb to one of these because I get a about a million a day. I’m a real sucker for an extra 30% off final sale at J. Crew. It’s only a matter of time.

My October shopping budget is $200. Zero dollars spent so far. We’ll see how long I make it. It’s only the 6th after all…